- Talk to Tharstan in Skaal Village.
- Travel to Vahlok's Tomb and talk to Tharstan again.
- Explore Vahlok's Tomb and find the main burial chamber.
- Defeat Vahlok the Jailor and return to Tharstan.
The small settlement of Skaal Village is inhabited by Nords living life the old way, with their own culture and religion, especially the worship of the All-Maker. These welcoming and hospitable people let an elderly historian and author named Tharstan live in the village so he could study and document the ancient Skaal traditions. Using what he learned of Skaal culture, Tharstan wrote Children of the All-Maker, and the next book is nearly finished. He also married the Skaal leader Fanari Strong-Voice and now lives in the largest building in town, the Greathall. After your heroic rescue of Baldor Iron-Shaper during the quest A New Source of Stalhrim, Tharstan will decide that you are the right person for a task he has in mind, and will actively seek you out when you next visit the village.
As it turns out, Tharstan is not only interested in Skaal traditions, but is equally interested in the many ancient ruins scattered all over Solstheim, claiming to know most of them well enough to draw a detailed map from memory. However, his recent discovery has left him quite nervous about exploring by himself, so he wants you to accompany him as backup. According to Tharstan, a new passage was unveiled during an earthquake caused by the eruption of Red Mountain. The passage revealed the entrance to Vahlok's Tomb. When you agree to go with him, Tharstan will run off to his temporary home, the Greathall, to pack for the trip, hoping you will meet him there as soon as possible.
A Tomb Uncovered
Vahlok's Tomb is located south-southeast from Thirsk Mead Hall, directly east from Kagrumez. Be sure to stock up on potions and have your best weapons on hand, then take the trip to the tomb. You will find the entrance located at the end of the passage caused by the earthquake. Head down the first tunnel and you will find Tharstan waiting for you. His fascination with the tomb is immediately apparent: "Remarkable, isn't it? This tomb has been hidden for... well, who knows how long. Many centuries, I would think." He will then proceed to offer you the first task: "There are some sealed doors up ahead. Perhaps you can figure out how to get them open." He will then guide you down a set of stairs and keep talking: "I've had a look around and the only interesting thing I've found is this inscription here, and a switch below it." When he arrives at the inscription and the switch he will continue: "Now, I'm not sure if you can read the dragon language, but this seems to be a riddle of some sort. 'A sacrifice will bring you closer to that which you seek.' I wonder what it means."
When you examine the room it soon becomes clear what needs to be done: dead draugr are scattered all around a gigantic burning hole in the floor, with only a grate to keep you from falling down. As per Tharstan's hint, drag (by holding down the "Activate" button) one of the dead draugr onto the grate, then head back up on the podium and activate the handle underneath the inscription. This causes the grate to open and drop the draugr into the flames, acting as the sacrifice needed. While the draugr burns, two entrances in the room will open, one to the north and one to the south.
Head down the southern tunnel and open the iron door. This opens a path through the catacombs, where four leveled draugr enemies will rise and attack. If you are not carrying arrows, pick up a few from the draugr archer in this area; you will need them to solve a puzzle later. Head up the stairs to the east and activate the chain. When the door opens, you and Tharstan will arrive in a puzzle room with three pillars surrounding a large central pillar with different colored symbols. Tharstan will immediately head up to a plaque and start reading: "Hm... three pillars. Other than that plaque, there doesn't seem to be anything else worthy of note. Let's see what the inscription says. 'All men must die, often by their own means.' Sounds rather grim, if you ask me." He will then wander around the room, mumbling: "They also have glowing stones of some kind at the top. They look vaguely similar to drawings I've seen of objects called Impact Stones."
To solve the puzzle, position yourself behind one of the three pillars and perform different attacks, related to the weapons placed on pedestals near the central pillar. Going counter clockwise from the plaque, use a melee attack for pillar one, an archery attack for pillar two, and a magic attack for pillar three. When all three pillars have been activated, the door to the north will open and provide access to the final chamber. Here, two draugr enemies will burst out of their sarcophagi, along with a boss-leveled draugr. After the battle, Tharstan will come rushing in and start to study the chamber, saying: "These runes have faded a bit, but I believe I can translate the inscription. The writing describes a guardian who defeated someone named Miraak. In fact, if I'm reading this correctly, it says that Miraak was a traitor. Most interesting." Once he is done, he will start looking for an exit, so make sure you loot the boss for the left part of the Amethyst Claw and approach the word wall for a word for the dragon shout Battle Fury. When you are finished, locate the open sarcophagus and follow the narrow tunnels back to the central chamber.
Head down the northern tunnel and unlock the minor loot chest in the alcove for a bit of treasure. Tharstan suspects that this room contains another puzzle: "I expect there's another riddle in here, along with a puzzle. 'Continue along the path, don't tread where you've been..' Interesting..." He will then look at the odd stone path in the center of the room and conclude: "Well, I'm pretty sure about two things. One, the riddle is most likely referring to these flat square stones. And two, I'm not going anywhere near them." With these words, he will find a safe spot and let you handle the rest. The puzzle is quite simple: just go from one square stone to the next, without ever touching one of them twice. Once all nine squares have been pressed down, the way to the final room will open. In there, four draugr enemies and a boss-leveled draugr will immediately attack you while Tharstan runs to safety.
After the battle, the old scholar will return to the room and start his studies, saying "Look! Here's another wall with dragon language inscriptions on it! Let's find out what's written here. This writing refers to a guardian who inspired both men and dragons. I wonder if the guardian was himself a man or a dragon?" Loot the boss for the right half of the Amethyst Claw and approach the word wall for a word for the dragon shout Battle Fury. Lastly, locate the open sarcophagus to the south and follow the narrow tunnels to a chain that, when activated, lowers a stone wall and provides a very quick shortcut back to the central chamber.
The Amethyst Claw
With the two parts of the Amethyst Claw in hand, it is time to unlock the odd cage in the central chamber. Insert the corresponding claws in the keyholes on each side of the stairs leading to the cage. When the cage opens, your elderly sidekick will jump into the cage and translate the plaque: "Here's another riddle. 'Stay your course. To idle is to die.' Well, at least it's straightforward. There appears to be a switch of some kind here. I'll just stand over here while you flip that switch. I'm sure everything will be fine." Flip the switch, and several magical platforms will start to emerge and disappear all over the watery area in the chamber, leading to an entrance far away. You will have to follow the platforms while they are present and be on the next platform before the former disappears. When you make it to the other side, the magical platforms will turn into a bridge and Tharstan will be able to join you.
A Bridge Too Far
Head through the corridor and face the next challenge: a gigantic chamber flooded with water and several corrupted shades lurking below. The drop is a very long one, but luckily a handle is present to create more magical bridges. Activate the handle and follow the bridge as it appears and disappears, landing you on a small alcove. Once again, the platforms will become permanent once you traversed them once, so Tharstan will soon follow, commenting on everything. Yet another magical bridge awaits, and its platforms disappear even faster than before. The last bridge leads to a huge iron door to the north. If you fall down you will not only suffer damage from the fall, but will have to deal with the corrupted shades and locate one of the various shortcuts back to the bridges above.
After the last bridge, Tharstan will open the gate leading to the ruins' Hall of Stories, excited as always: "Ah, the Hall of Stories. These are found in many ancient Nord tombs. There must be hundreds of years of history etched in these walls. Too bad they seem to be too damaged to read." He will then consider the puzzle door: "Hmm...looks like it needs some sort of key. Maybe those half claws you found would fit in here if you put them together?" Naturally, he is correct, but the right combination is nowhere to be seen on the claw, so you will have to pay attention to Tharstan as he deciphers the writings on the walls: "Perhaps there's enough undamaged text in these etchings to tell us the combination. Ah, yes, here's something. The first one has to do with a breeze, or maybe it's wind. The second one mentions the night sky, and the moon. And the third has something to do with fire. It also seems to mention scales." He will then ask you to figure out the combination from these small tips. Turn the rings on the door to Eagle—Wolf—Dragon and insert the amethyst claw in the keyhole.
Vahlok the Jailor
The puzzle door will lower to reveal a long staircase leading up to a chain that opens the way to the final chamber. The chamber itself is essentially one big trap, as almost all the tiles on the floor are flame spout traps. Fire resistance will be extremely useful in this chamber, so make sure you prepare before entering. You will not make it far into the room before the legendary dragon priest Vahlok the Jailor bursts out of his sarcophagus and starts to throw high-level fire spells at you, so do your best to fight him and avoid the fire.
After the battle, old Tharstan will once again come out of hiding and start studying the word wall: "Hmm, here's another mention of the guardian. I can only assume that this is the guardian's tomb we are standing in now. It says that he was loyal, and his reward was an honorable death. Quite fascinating." Speak to Tharstan and he will further comment: "How amazing! A real Dragon Priest! In all my years as a historian, I never thought I'd see anything like that. I suppose that was Vahlok. He must have had this entire place built for him so that he could maintain his vigil, even beyond death." He will then reward you with 1000 gold and tell you that he will stay in the tomb a while longer, for further studying. Before leaving, make sure to loot the remains of Vahlok for a hefty amount of gold and search his boss-leveled chest. Learn the third and final word for the Battle Fury shout, then backtrack all the way to the entrance.
Note: Another way out is to jump off of the first magic bridges into the water on your way out. Once in the water, take care of the corrupted shades and look for one of three openings. Those will lead to the barred doors right next to the first magic bridge and main hall cage, giving you a shortcut out without having to backtrack all the way through.
- The book The Guardian and the Traitor details how Vahlok battled the traitor Miraak back in ancient times, only to see him taken away by Hermaeus Mora seconds before defeating him.
- Try a combination of the Slow Time shout and/or repeatedly jumping to cross the disappearing bridges. You can also leave most of your heavy items on the floor before starting a bridge, which will enable you to run faster, and then come back for them once the permanent bridge appears.
- If the puzzle door does not work, check here for possible fixes.
- Tharstan may fall off the magical bridge.
- You can fix this by jumping down and opening the way for him to come back up.
- Tharstan can be transported directly to the player's location via the console commands
- If Tharstan gets stuck and you reach the puzzle door ahead of him, he may not tell you what the combination is. Mod Notes: Presumably, he delivers the dialogue, but out of range of the player.
- The following empty quest stages were omitted from the table: 0, 5, 100, 300, 305, 310, 312, 313, 315, 320, 322, 323, 325, 330, 332, 333, 335, 340, 345, 401, 402, 500, 505, 510, 515, 520, 550, 600, 610, 620, 630, 701, 702, 703, 704.